The next generation of manufacturing is rapidly upon, if you will excuse the pun. Rapid prototyping and 3D metal printing is about to get considerably faster and cheaper, if you believe the hype surrounding manufacturing startup Desktop Metal, which just got another $115 million in funding, I might add.
Until now, traditional 3D metal printers relied on lasers to melt metal powders so they could be “printed” into complex shapes, which not only limited what alloys could be used in those situations, but it was also fairly time intensive.
Using what it calls “microwave enhanced sintering” though, Desktop Metal can print with virtually any kind of metal (including steel, aluminum, titanium and copper), and do it at a much faster rate – 100x faster than other additive manufacturing processes, if you believe them.
It is hard to think how Kawasaki could make the Ninja H2 more modern, considering the bike’s supercharged engine, radical aerodynamics, and plethora of electronics. But, that didn’t stop the minds at Divergent 3D, a company that is specializing on making vehicles with 3D printing technology.
We have talked about 3D printing here at Asphalt & Rubber before, a technology that when the economies of scale finally take hold of it, should turn several industries on their heads.
For the Divergent 3D Dagger, you can see that the frame, swingarm, and fuel tank are built using Divergent’s 3D printing technology, which uses additive manufacturing to create metal-alloy nodes, and carbon fiber tubes to connect them, when applicable.
In the case of the Divergent 3D Dagger, our best information is that the machine’s chassis comprises solely of metals that have been 3D printed, sans the carbon fiber tubes that can be found on the company’s Blade supercar, though it wouldn’t be hard to change the design of the frame to employ carbon fiber.
We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry.
For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas.
Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.
One day, 3D printing technology will fundamentally change the motorcycle industry. Currently however, companies use 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, to quickly and cheaply build parts for development machines. Enthusiasts also use the technology, though mostly as a novelty, which is the case here.
A glimpse perhaps in how we will one day buy motorcycles, some clever modelers have “printed” a pretty convincing 3D copy of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Built in CAD, and printed with a Ultimaker, the attention to detail is pretty astounding — note the chain that exactly meshes up with the front and rear sprockets.
Forty pieces comprise the work, which have also been painted and lacquered to look like the genuine article. The lines you see are the limits of the resolution of the printer, which builds each piece a ~0.1mm layer at a time.
While it won’t replace the real thing anytime soon, it’s compelling how close the model looks to the full-size genuine article. If you’re so inclinded, you can get the files to print out your very own, right here.
For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.
Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.
For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).
The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.
This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.
As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.